The following is an excerpt from "The Locavore's Kitchen" by Marilou K. Suszko. The excerpt is from Chapter 3: Fall. To find out more about the recipes in "The Locavore's Kitchen" and the importance of eating local, read this interview with author Marilou Suszko.
Makes about 8 cups
For some people, carrot peelings, celery leaves, corncobs, and mushroom stems are either trash or compost. It’s the same dilemma with vegetables that may be a little past their prime, like celery that’s a bit limp or tomatoes not pretty enough for a salad. The resourceful cook—the locavore—knows that these are the makings of a magnificent vegetable stock, a great base for soups that feature other vegetables, like the Cabbage and Mushroom Soup or the flavorful liquid that enhances dishes such as the creamy Pumpkin Risotto from my book "The Locavore's Kitchen." Made correctly, rich and highly flavored, vegetable stock can often be used as a substitute for chicken stock and is helpful for converting some dishes to vegetarian options. Lighter and sweeter than meatbased stocks, it does its job quietly, but deliciously, in the background when the focus is on stronger flavors.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion
2 cups chopped celery, including leaves
1½ cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped leeks (green leaves only)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bunch fresh parsley, leaves and stems, chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
½ tablespoon peppercorns, crushed
Salt, to taste
1. Heat the butter or oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns and stir to coat. Cook, uncovered, until the vegetables have softened and released some of their liquid, about 30 minutes. Take care that the vegetables don’t brown.
2. Add enough cold water to the pot to just cover the vegetables, about 6 cups. Bring to a gentle boil. Adjust the heat so the stock remains at a gentle simmer, cover, and cook without stirring for about an hour until the stock is flavorful and takes on some color.
3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Press gently on the vegetables to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Taste and season with salt.
4. Let cool to room temperature. Use immediately, store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.
Customize Vegetable Stock
Vegetable stocks can be made all season long using sweeter, less assertive vegetables. Here are some helpful hints on how to tweak the flavor to customize it for the dish you’re preparing.
• To sweeten the flavor of the stock, use vegetables like carrots, parsnips, red peppers, or celery. Add a total of 2 extra cups of those vegetables to the basic recipe.
• To make a flavorful stock for chowders, save stripped corncobs and add them to the stock. A half dozen cobs will do the trick.
• Tomatoes add great color and flavor to vegetable stocks, welcome in heartier soups but not always desired for lighter-colored cream soups.
• For a deeper, earthier stock, save mushroom stems or caps and add one to two cups to the basic recipe along with a couple of sprigs of marjoram.
• In soup recipes that feature squash or pumpkin, add any variety of winter squash, seeds and strings included, to the basic stock recipe.
• Use herbs judiciously. Strong herbs like tarragon, rosemary, oregano, and sage can overwhelm delicate vegetable stocks and turn bitter when cooked for long periods. Use sparingly, just a few sprigs, and add toward the end of the cooking time, tasting until the flavor you desire is achieved and removing the sprigs afterward.
• More assertive vegetables that should be avoided in stocks include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and turnips. Asparagus should be used sparingly and only for soups featuring asparagus. Starchy potatoes will cloud the stock.
For more homemade stock recipes, read the original article, "How to Make Homemade Stock."